VP Toyota Motor Asia Pacific David Nordstrom posing for a photo with the Paralympic Athletes. Image: Faza Suraj

Toyota, the Japanese automotive giant, is in the midst of a transformation that looks to reshape itself into an establishment that focuses on mobility-centric innovations for everyone.

With Toyota being the main sponsor for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the company is driven by the philosophy of providing “Mobility for All”, showcasing a number of revolutionary vehicles that are disability-friendly at the recent Tokyo Motor Show 2019.

During a three-day media tour prior to the show, the brand treated some 200 local and international media representatives and brand ambassadors to series of product demonstrations, press conferences and site visits.

President of Toyota Akio Toyoda exiting the e-Pallete. Image: Faza Suraj

These are among the efforts done towards the company’s transformation from an automotive to a mobility-centric company; not a usual sight for the motor show where car manufacturers would just introduce new vehicles for the following year. But for Toyota, it is more than that.

In one of its presentations held at Hilton Tokyo Odaiba, Toyota Motor Asia Pacific Vice President David Nordstrom focused on Toyota’s regional strategy and initiatives in South and Southeast Asia, especially in supporting Paralympians.

Paralympic athletes from Pakistan, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, among others, shared their experience on how Toyota played a major role in their progress especially in supporting their training and providing logistics for ease of transport.

Moreover, Toyota hoped to deploy various types of disability-friendly electric vehicles to assist athletes and attendees to move around the venue during the 2020 sporting events. 

A fleet of i-Road vehicles seen at the ready. Image: Faza Suraj

Some of the examples include the hydrogen-powered electric shuttle bus called Sora and the Accessible People Mover Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), e-Palette and Walking Area BEV. 

The Japanese brand also showcased its futuristic autonomous BEV e-Palette at the Aomi exhibition hall that wowed the crowd with its ability to manoeuvre without a driver.

What’s even surprising was when the President of Toyota Motor Corporation Akio Toyoda appeared from the vehicle as the doors slide opened before an enthusiastic sea of people.

He spoke about Toyota’s vision of mobility and focused on the e-Palette that is slated to debut at the upcoming competition.

The e-Racer concept vehicle by Toyota showcased at their booth. Image: Faza Suraj

“Toyota booth (at the motor show) this time does not feature a single car to be launched next year,” said the president.

“All that is found here are forms of mobility that link to society and communities and that provide of getting around and services to people.”

To further emphasize its “Mobility for All” philosophy, Toyota showed the media teams how projects and research were conducted at its Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development Inc. head office.

The highlight of the visit to the centre was the demonstration of Toyota’s robotics activities that involved the Human Support Robot (HSR) and the Field Support Robot (FSR).

Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Corporation Shigeki Terashi delivers a presentation about Toyota’s strategy for vehicle’s electrification. Image: Faza Suraj

The HSR is a one-armed machine designed to assist its designated human partner such as fetching items beyond the person’s reach. 

During the presentation by Chief Officer of Toyota’s Frontier Research Center Nobuhiko Koga, he mentioned that more than a dozen of these robots will be deployed during the 2020 games.

The FSR, on the other hand, is a machine created to assist the Olympics and Paralympics official staff in retrieving thrown equipment such as javelin spears, discus or hammers.

Toyota is committed to pulling vast resources into realising its “Mobility for All” ideology and with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games as a testing ground, it will be interesting to see what sort of development the automotive giant will achieve.

Chief Officer of Toyota’s Frontier Research Center Nobuhiko Koga demonstrating the reach of the HSR which is about 1.2 metres vertically. It is also capable of picking things up from the ground. Image: Faza Suraj

This article was first published on November 9, 2019 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 62

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